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Project REMAKE: graduation ceremony

James Gourlay, about 11 months ago

Over the past 12 weeks Project REMAKE has taken a group of ex-offenders on a journey to help them develop and launch their own businesses.

For anyone there are many barriers when you want to take this jump, but for ex-offenders it is profoundly more difficult. Whether it is trying to find insurance, funding, or simply the anxiety of feeling that you are not allowed to do this because of your background, for many ex-offenders becoming an entrepreneur may feel impossible. REMAKE aimed to breakdown these walls and help the budding entrepreneurs develop their business ideas in to a reality.

Through out the course the attendees were taken through topics such as business structures, and the legal requirements of businesses, for example, to ensure they have a base of understanding on which to build out their concepts. They were also taught many softer skills such as the art of selling, and pitching for investing.

The course culminated with its graduation ceremony at which the 13 entrepreneurs presented their fledgling companies to 100 people.

The range of business ideas that had been generated is fascinating. From Pink Umbrella studios, a business that we've blogged about previously, who develop websites using developers in custody, to 'Roadman Tutorialz' a Youtube channel aiming to use satire and comedy to challenge young peoples' perceptions of knife crime and to draw them away from it. We saw pitches from start-ups selling adult toys online, recruiting people in to the construction sector, cooking Caribbean influenced food, and a fitness company looking to blend the holistic approach to life of the Islamic faith with the physical principles of gym training.

The entrepreneurs all presented with passion, and a clear, well thought out vision for their businesses. When asked what they need to develop their companies now, as with all start-ups, they require funding, but the participants were most keen to gain the support of mentors who have walked the path to business success that they now wish to pursue. Most wanted to find a person or company who could advise them on the dynamics within their chosen sectors, a sign of individuals who are keenly engaged with their ideas, and very pragmatic about the journey that are embarking upon.

What was most fascinating to see was, as we've mentioned previously, the diversity of ideas that Project REMAKE has helped to produce. The business concepts appear to be born out of each individual's life experience and passions. All the entrepreneurs talked about the economic opportunity that they believe they are addressing, but they arrived back at the fact that they had seen the need for their services through their own life experience.

From a criminal justice perspective it is fantastic that the men involved in the course are reshaping their lives, but it's also a vitally important story from a broader human perspective. It shows us that as people no matter how bad our experience of life can get - and we imagine for most of us going to prison is among the worst scenarios - that one can pull from this negative experience, using it as motivation to drive us on to better things, and to ensure our full potential as human beings is ultimately recognised by both ourselves and society.

Following the success of this first course Project REMAKE is going to return to King's College London for a further course, and is now also looking to expand to other universities across the UK.

If you are interested in supporting the entrepreneurs who participated in the course, or supporting the course in general, please see the Project REMAKE website: http://project-remake.org.uk/